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Red, white and blue recipe ideas

Fourth of July is the time of year for family reunions and fireworks, and don't forget the potluck cookouts, where everyone is asked to bring an entree.

Recipes incorporating red, white and blue are always a great bet for Independence Day picnics, so we asked around for some of the best patriotic recipe ideas. From ideas featuring purply blueberries to ripe, red strawberries to snowy white angel food cake, we found a few favorites that will have cookout guests wanting second helpings and asking, "May I have the recipe?"

- Compiled by staff intern Santrice Curry

Jennifer McCarty of Lawrenceville won first place for her Blueberry Lemon Strata in a recent Georgia Egg Commission recipe contest.

Blueberry Lemon Strata

For the strata:

Spray vegetable oil

10 cups day-old Italian bread cubes, cut 1⁄2 inch thick

1 8-ounce package reduced-fat cream cheese, softened

1⁄2 cup sugar, divided

1 teaspoon vanilla extract, divided

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1⁄2 cup dried blueberries

4 eggs

11⁄2 cups half-and-half

1⁄4 teaspoon salt

1⁄2 cup pecans, chopped

For the sauce:

1⁄2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1⁄2 cup water

3 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

2 tablespoons lemon juice

For the whipped cream:

1 cup heavy whipping cream

3 tablespoons sugar

1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 F. Place half of the bread cubes in a greased 13-by-9-inch baking pan. In a bowl, beat together cream cheese, 1⁄4 cup sugar, 1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla and lemon zest. Stir in dried blueberries. Spoon mixture in small dollops over bread and top with remaining bread cubes.

In the same bowl, lightly beat eggs. Add half-and-half, remaining sugar, salt and remaining vanilla. Beat egg mixture and pour evenly over bread. Sprinkle with pecans. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes, or until lightly browned.

While strata is baking, prepare sauce. In a saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch and water. Bring to a boil over medium heat; stir constantly for 3 minutes or until smooth. Add blueberries and simmer for 5 minutes, or until thoroughly heated and bubbling. Stir in lemon juice, remove from heat and set aside.

To prepare whipped cream, beat cream, sugar and vanilla in a chilled bowl until fluffy. Cut strata into squares and top with sauce and whipped cream.

Serves 8 to 12.

Betsy Podriznik of Lawrenceville won second place in the Georgia Egg Commission's recent recipe contest for her innovative cheeseberry dip.

Hot and Sweet

Cheeseberry Dip

Spray vegetable oil

1⁄2 cup dried strawberries, chopped

1 tablespoon powdered sugar

4 eggs, separated

4 cups (1 pound) sharp cheddar cheese, grated

1⁄2 cup pecans, chopped

1⁄4 cup sweet onion, finely chopped

1 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 jar reduced-sugar strawberry preserves

Fresh strawberries, sliced, for garnish

Butter-flavored graham crackers

Preheat oven to 350 F. Use a spray oil to coat the bottom and sides of a ceramic 9-inch pie plate. Precut and chop all ingredients, set aside. Place strawberries in a snack size zip-top bag with the tablespoon of powdered sugar. Shake thoroughly to prevent the strawberries from sticking together when added to the other ingredients, set aside.

In a large bowl, whip the egg whites until soft peaks form and set aside. In a separate small bowl, whip the egg yolks until thoroughly mixed. Slowly fold the egg yolks into the egg whites until well mixed. Add strawberries, cheese, pecans, onions and vinegar. Gently and slowly fold into the egg mixture.

Pour into the ceramic pie plate and bake for 20-25 minutes. At the end of the 20 minutes, test for doneness by inserting a knife into the ingredients. If it comes out clean, the dip is done; if not, bake an additional 5 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes to cool slightly. Top with strawberry preserves, spreading it evenly over the dip. Add a few sliced, fresh strawberries, if available. Spoon onto butter-flavored crackers.

Marcia Jackson of Lawrenceville

submitted her famous Red Velvet Cake recipe.

Red Velvet Cake

21⁄2 cups cake flour

11⁄2 cups granulated sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cocoa powder

1 cup of buttermilk

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vinegar

11⁄2 cups of vegetable oil

1 ounce red food coloring

2 teaspoons pure vanilla

For the frosting:

4 cups confectioners sugar

1 pound cream cheese, softened to room temperature

1 pound sweet butter, softened

3 teaspoons pure vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 F. Sift together all dry ingredients. Place buttermilk, eggs, vinegar, vegetable oil, food coloring and vanilla in an electric mixing bowl and beat on medium speed until well incorporated. Slowly add dry ingredients and beat until combined. Pour batter into a 13-by-9-inch baking pan. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes.

While the cake is baking, mix together the cream cheese and softened butter for the frosting. Gradually add confectioners sugar until the frosting reaches desired sweet and smoothness. Add the vanilla and mix well. Once the cake has cooled, frost.

Serves 10 to 12.

This recipe for a warm blueberry sauce, from "Short and Sweet: Sophisticated Desserts in 30 Minutes or Less" by Melanie Barnard (Houghton Mifflin, $14.95), tastes great served over angel food cake or vanilla ice cream.

Blueberry Angel

1 pint fresh blueberries

1⁄4 cup blueberry or other fruit vinegar

1⁄4 cup honey

1⁄4 cup creme de cassis or black currant syrup

4 to 6 slices purchased angel food cake

In a medium, nonreactive saucepan, bring the blueberries, vinegar, honey and creme de cassis to a simmer, stirring over medium heat until the berries just begin to burst, 3 to 5 minutes. The berries can be cooled and refrigerated for 1 day. Reheat gently before serving.

To serve, spoon the warm berries and sauce over the angel food cake slices on dessert plates.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.